Gov Masari’s Eleven Billion Naira Lie | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Columnists, Scruples

Gov Masari’s Eleven Billion Naira Lie

Posted: Oct 29, 2015 at 12:18 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

It is exactly one week now since Premium Times carried a very shocking story in which the Katsina State Governor and one of the leading lights of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Mr. Aminu Bello Masari, was accused of brazenly deploying a false claim to get his state included on the list of the 27 insolvent states that required the federal bailout approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for the payment of arrears of salary owed workers. The governor had claimed that by the time he assumed office, workers in his state were being owed two months’ salary and due to the almost empty treasury he met on ground, he would not be able to settle the salary arrears unless he got the federal bailout.

The truth, however, as discovered by Premium Times, is that Katsina State “had no business being among the group of insolvent states in need of federal bailout to pay workers salary arrears. Katsina State civil servants as well as workers in the state’s 34 local governments received their full salaries and allowances up to May when Mr. Masari became governor.”

Now, in the absence of any form of refutation from Mr. Masari’s office to such a credibility-shattering report, one can safely assume that the governor, indeed, told that horrendous lie as claimed by Premium Times, and that he is only deploying the weapon of silence to allow the astounding scandal to quietly disappear. What should even be more worrisome now is: if Governor Masari could unleash such a bare-faced lie to fraudulently obtain over N11 billion loan from the federal government, how can anyone be sure that the money would not simply disappear into a black hole and he would quickly manufacture an even bigger lie to explain away its disappearance?

To qualify for the bailout, the Central Bank requires each governor to show evidence that he obtained the approval of the state house of assembly before filing a request. And to get this, Governor Masari had written to the speaker of the Katsina State House of Assembly requesting the consent of the state lawmakers “for the State government to collaborate with the Central Bank of Nigeria for a Bail Out of outstanding workers’ salary in the State and Local governments.”

In the letter dated August 26, 2015 (Ref: S/SGKT/154/3) entitled, “Bailout on Outstanding Salary for Workers of the State and Local Governments,” Governor Masari wrote:

“Mr Speaker may wish to know that at the time of the take-off of this administration, the State and Local Governments in the State owed workers two months’ salary to the tune of N11,086,632,741.32 broken down as follows: Katsina State: N3,646,943,099.80; 34 local government councils:  N7,439,689,641.32; Total: N11,086,632,741,.32 … It is in the view of the need for the State Government and Local Governments to meet their obligation in the payment of outstanding workers’ salary, considering the lean resources inherited from the former administration, that it has become necessary for the State Government to apply for the bail out on behalf of the State and Local Governments.” 

It becomes even more shocking when one notes that such a benumbing lie is coming from the governor of the home state of an anti-corruption president and one of the prime movers of the so-called “change” agenda. And as if to further expose Masari’s fraudulent agenda, both his own press secretary, Mr. Abdul Labaran, and the media aide to former Governor Ibrahim Shema, Mr. Oluwabusola Olawale, have confirmed that Katsina State was not owing any arrears of salary. Said Mr. Olawale:

“Throughout the tenure of Ibrahim Shema, workers’ salaries were paid latest on the 25th of every month. As at May both the state and local government salaries were paid on the 25th. So he left office without owing any worker any salary. So this news is strange to us. We don’t know what could have necessitated this letter…There is definitely no justification to ask for a bailout of two months salary.”

Now, is this a grand conspiracy between the governor and the Katsina lawmakers, or would they also tell us that they were not aware that Masari had told them an atrocious lie?  And what does this say about the genuineness of the APC mob which insults our intelligence daily with infantile claims about the ruling being a party of angels who are in town to clear the mess created by their predecessor?

Anyone familiar with Masari’s history of unwholesome controversies would, however, not be surprised at this latest development. He was the Speaker of the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2007 when he handed over to Patricia Foluke Etteh. As Ms. Etteh prepared to move into the speaker’s official residence vacated by Masari, she got herself embroiled in a N628 million house renovation contract scandal. The Idoko Panel constituted by the House to probe the scandal soon discovered that this same house was renovated twice during Masari’s tenure – N2.5 million was used to give it a facelift in 2003 while in 2006, a year before he left office, N16 million was spent for another renovation on the same house. It would be recalled that in 1999, four years before Masari assumed office, N5.28 million was spent on the renovation of the house, and there was no record of any further expenses on the house until Masari took over and renovated it twice in four years. The cost of these renovations may appear little by today’s standards, but we must hasten to remember that at the time Masari was speaker, N2.5 million would be quite sufficient to build and furnish a beautiful bungalow.

But the worst part of the story emerged when Etteh told the country that she required N238 million to renovate the house because it was horribly vandalized. Expectations were that Masari would have risen to challenge such a damaging insinuation, but his silence was louder than the din provoked in the House by Etteh’s scandal.

But that’s not the end of the Masari story. In January this year, after he emerged as the APC governorship candidate for Katsina State, Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, wrote a petition on behalf of some APC stalwarts in the state to the party’s national leadership alleging that Masari had presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). According to the petitioners, Masari’s claim that he obtained a postgraduate diploma in Water Quality Control and Management from Middlesex Polytechnic in the UK was false because the polytechnic, following some inquiries, had stated that no such course was offered by the institution in the year Masari claimed to have attended the school.  

In the Leadership newspaper of January 10, 2015, Masari put up this lame defense:

“I was then a senior officer on Grade Level 10 and I was given the opportunity to go to Middlesex Polytechnic in London and study water quality control and management. So, for God’s sake, how come in 1982 that I had no idea that I would contest the governorship election after 32 years, I forged a certificate waiting for that day or even forged a certificate to contest the election in 1999, 17 years after?”

A clever answer indeed! But it is certainly not enough to bury the matter. Now, how can a British polytechnic award Masari a certificate without having any record of it and at a time such a course was not being offered by the school? Who said that it is only for election purposes that people forge certificates? What if someone had refused to attend a course approved for him but used some other means to procure a certificate to prove that he actually attended the course in order to   claim all the benefits that go with the course? Exactly the same way Masari had allegedly written a letter claiming his state owed salaries when the opposite was the case in order to get a whopping N11 billion bailout which he is most likely to mismanage?

Now that an anti-corruption group is demanding a probe of Masari’s alleged fraudulent claim, decent Nigerians are waiting to see the outcome. Interestingly nothing has been heard from the propaganda machine of the “most righteous” party in the world.